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COVID-19 is now unquestionably a major event in our history and while we are still in the foothills of this crisis in Europe, deep implication for our society and economy are already evident.

Three observations:

  1. Unprecedented levels of intervention in our economies may be more permanent than we think: Last week has seen several governments across Europe intervene in their economies to an extent not seen in peacetime. While governments have been quick to characterise these  changes as temporary, they will remain in place at least until the public health and economic situation has stabilised. It seems unlikely that governments will simply be able to fold up these measures wholesale when we exit this crisis and the choice to do this will become highly politicised, particularly if, in the meantime, governments intervene on behalf of taxpayers to bailout airlines or other crisis-hit industries. We could be in for an extended period of big government which comes at a price for business who will be expected to pay their share. Pressure on big business to pay more tax, while being a model corporate citizen, is going to increase.

  2. Our attitude to risk is likely to be affected forever with implications for climate change policy in particular: Even a few weeks ago it seemed inconceivable to anybody that local populations across Europe would be confined to their homes, while borders shut and international travel bans were put into  force. The speed with which this has happened and the length of time it is likely to remain in place is going to have a profound impact on the way that we look at the world. For example, governments’ historical reluctance to take radical action to tackle climate change is based on an assumption that electorates are unlikely to accept changes which have a material impact on their lives. The next few months of collective societal effort to curtail normal behaviour in the face of a grave public health threat is likely to change that assumption. If that is the case, then we can expect a doubling down by European institutions on the climate agenda as they realise that society’s appetite for compromise may be greater than previously thought.

  3. Mass social distancing is changing the way we live, work and also do public affairs: A prolonged period of changed working patterns and remote working for millions of people is going to provoke a rethink about the basis of our working cultures, about the way our cities and towns are designed, about the way public transport systems operate and about the necessity of high-quality digital infrastructure. For those innovative companies with solutions and ideas there are obvious opportunities.

Very few companies will be immune from change and public affairs is not exceptional here. With staff and our interlocutors in government and politics currently confined to their homes, we are rethinking advocacy for a world without physical contact. On the other side of this crisis we are likely to retain the best of what we’ve learnt and this will remain a permanent feature of our industry.

The last weeks have also reminded me of the crucial role that public affairs plays in a time of crisis.

The decisions being made over the next few months by governments will have significant long-term implications for Europe and their mindset and priorities will be very different when we exit this crisis from when we went in.

The companies that can understand that ahead of time will be in the best position to survive and then thrive. This is what we at Interel, and our partners in the Interel Global Partnership, will be striving to achieve for our clients in the months ahead.


Grégoire Poisson Chief Executive Officer Global Office - Interel


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